SEASONED performer Siyasanga Papu comes full circle as she makes her return to the South African State Theatre (SAST), playing a lead (role) in the award-winning play “Xova”, set to stage for a limited season from June 29 until July 3.
“Xova” tackles burning societal issues including father absenteeism in the upbringing of children, particularly the girl child.
The play follows the story of Zukiswa, a young Xhosa woman facing the harsh realities of solo parenting inside a heavily disadvantaged family.
Ukuxova, a Xhosa word denoting the mixing of dough for baking, is a metaphor used for the process of raising a child. The show employs movement with some text in Xhosa through its narration.
Papu takes over from Charmain Mtinta, who also took the baton from Zimkitha Kumbaca in 2019.
Papu says she’s honoured to be part of this “magnificent” production.
"This stellar cast has told this story so beautifully and I’m truly honoured to join them in telling this story,“ says Papu.
“Zukiswa is complex and rooted in who she is, and she is a great challenge to play. She is a mother with a hard past and also leading a hard life. She is a strong character who was forced to be strong by circumstances.
“She is also filled with fear and that makes her very protective, and this is also how she shows love.
“I think, like most typical African adults Zukiswa struggled with expressing herself when growing up. That then led to her having a lot of things bottled up inside, which she now projects on her own child.
“She’s one of the toughest characters that I’ve had to play, because I won’t lie and say, I know, personally, a lot of women like this, but with the research that I’ve done, I have come across such women.
“And it’s a hard pill to swallow that this can be and is the reality of other people’s lives but a lot can be expected from her. She’s a fireball. She spits a lot of fire but I think it comes from a place of love. It’s just (that) her past has left her scarred.
“As an actor, it is always great to be challenged by a role, especially ones that are very far from who you are as a person.”
Papu officially made her debut as Zikuswa at The Playhouse Company in Durban in February.
“Initially, it was nerve-wracking. But I was grateful for the fact that I had never seen the show before. So, I appreciated that because then I was able to give it a clean slate,” says the star as she reflects on her debut experience as Zukiswa.
“And I’m happy because the director allowed me the creative licence to create this character and develop it the way that I want to interpret and tell the story.
“It was scary in Durban because people have seen it (the play) before. But the reception was great. People really enjoyed the show.
“It was amazing when you come out after the show, and people are crying and hugging you. People really connected with the show. And the cast is also really great and receptive, guiding me through to say, ‘okay, so this is what you would do here’ because there’s a lot of choreography, a lot of music.
“The ensemble all together is really a wonderful experience for me.”
Popularly known for her role of Pretty Molefe on Mzansi Magic’s hit series “Gomora”, Papu has always struck a balance between TV and theatre throughout her nearly two decades in the industry.
“For many years, before TV, I did theatre. I have done theatre for 17 years now. My first show was in 2005, which was a year after my matric and that is when my acting career was launched.
“I went on an international tour with a show by Paul Grootboom, called ‘Relativity: The Township Stories’. And that show basically propelled me into doing a whole lot more theatre. I did every single festival in South Africa, from Grahamstown to Mapungubwe.
“And we even went to Vienna with that show. And then we toured the UK for about four months, doing 10 different cities. We came back and I still did more theatre.
“So, I’ve been around for quite some time, but I did more theatre than TV because that really is the heart of it for me. I started out with the South African State Theatre Development and that’s literally where my skills were sharpened.”
Papu has starred in award-winning production, “Marikana The Musical”, and featured in the Cape Town tour of the 50s musical “King Kong”.
“Xova” will be staged at SAST’s Arena Theatre, from Thursday, June 29, until Sunday, July 3.
Tickets are available at Webtickets from R100.